Not-So-Sloppy Tempeh Joe

November 5th, 2012 :: 23 comments

The last time I had a sloppy joe, I was still watching the television series Alf, playing with GI Joes, and riding my bike without shoes out on the gravel trails of Fort Polk, Louisiana. I was such a picky eater growing up and, as the doctor’s growth charts alerted my mother, slightly underweight. Eating wasn’t my favorite pastime. I would much rather have ridden my bike or played in the fields.

My parents used many tricks to get me to eat. Some of them were bribes, which I think every parent tries. A lot of them were disguising my food as something else. My dad tried the “Close your eyes and you’ll get a big surprise” approach, but that only worked a few times. Sometimes they just flat out gave me what I wanted. I had the metabolism of a gazelle at that point in my life, so why not let me eat a Manwich Sloppy Joe?

Fast forward, many, many years and I am a vegetarian and no longer have the gazelle metabolism. My rendition of a sloppy joe uses tempeh, which is very hearty and has a nice grain like texture, savory veggies and toppings, a sweet tomato drizzle, and a sliced pita bread. Enjoy!

FILLING: 8 oz (1 package) chopped tempeh, half an onion, 1 large pepper or two small peppers, 4 minced garlic cloves, handful of cherry tomatoes, and a pinch of salt.

1. Put a skillet/frying pan over medium heat. Add olive olive oil and peppers. Sauté and let them soften for 5 minutes.

2. Add the chopped tempeh to the skillet (a trick to get the tempeh extra brown is to add a little soy sauce while sautéeing).

3. After the tempeh has started to brown, add the garlic, tomatoes, onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook until everything is wilted.

SAUCE: 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4  teaspoon black pepper & 1/2 cup water.

1. In a sauce pan, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, salt, chili powder, black pepper & water.

2. After the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat. Let it reduce for 5 minutes and remove from the burner.

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: Chopped scallions, olives, sour cream & pita bread.

Toast the pita bread and carefully cut it in half from the side. You can add whatever toppings you like. If you want it more traditional, you can stick with cheddar cheese and just the sauce. I, on the other hand, enjoy savory, so I topped mine with the sweet tomato sauce mixture, olives, scallions, and sour cream.

I prefer to have the tomato sauce as a drizzle and not completely submerge the tempeh and veggies. That way I get to see all the healthy veggies I am about to eat.

Looking at all these pictures makes me want to get a second helping. I think I will.

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§ 23 Responses to Not-So-Sloppy Tempeh Joe"

  • Megan says:

    I think I’m gonna have to try these! Excellent photos too! I especially love the one with the measuring cups.

    • Joann says:

      Thank you. I recommend it. I’ll try to remember to bring some Tempeh on the plane with us for Thanksgiving. I think you guys will like it.

  • ML says:

    They look delicious (even though I don’t think I’ve ever eaten Tempeh:)
    Megs, I liked the measuring spoon photo too.

  • AD says:

    YUM!! That first photo made my mouth water. As always, I eat with my eyes first. So colorful! Great job on the photography. Was Dustin or Edna involved in making this dish with you? It’s always fun to have someone in the kitchen that enjoys creating dishes just like you do. Now that the weather is getting chilly. I need to dig out your chocolate chip cookie recipe and whip up a batch. Warm the house and kitchen with some good smells.

    • Joann says:

      It was just me in the kitchen this time. Edna starting her new job and on top of that works her weekends as a food stylist assistant at my office. She is a busy lady. We usually cook together when we get home from work most nights.

      Tempeh is my favorite protein to work with lately. It looks gross in the package, but it has an excellent texture and browns really quick.

      It is definitely cookie season. We have made cookies twice already.

  • Dee says:

    Walking out the door and have my food list in hand. Hubby lets me know I need to add to it. Give you one guess what we are having for dinner tonight. :D

  • Dee says:

    These were fantastic. Followed recipe completely including extras ( olives, sour cream) and it was a big hit. The only thing that I would suggest changing is the 1/2 of the pita. All of our tore easily but one we went to a whole pita we had no issues. I had to quadruple the recipe because there are about 10 of us. EVERYONE loved it. NO LEFTOVERS! :)

    • Joann says:

      I’m glad you liked it! Halving the pita bread can definitely be an issue, especially if you prepared quadruple the recipe. I used kitchen shears to be very precise, but I made a small batch.

  • this looks amazing!! haven’t attempted it before but will have a go! thanks for sharing the recipe! AND LOVE the photos! :D

    • Joann says:

      Thank you for the nice comment. I looked at your blog and you are quite the photographer yourself. I am especially jealous of all the traveling you get to do.

  • Annie says:

    My boyfriend and I made these tonight and loved them! He is not even close to a vegetarian so that is saying a lot. Thanks for the delicious, easy recipe!

    • Joann says:

      I’m glad to hear that. It’s nice when vegetarians and none vegetarians can enjoy the same meal together.

  • Nora says:

    I made these last night and they were amazing!! I doubled the batch because my boyfriend and I eat a lot of food, and after the sauce had reduced for a few minutes I poured it into the pan with the tempeh and vegetables and let it all simmer for about five minutes more. Also my tempeh didn’t stay intact like it looks like yours did, mine kind of crumbled which made it sloppier but even more like the original. I also added some A-1 steak sauce and served it on rolls with scallions and olives (no sour cream because we’re vegan). Thank you so much!!

    • Joann says:

      I’m glad you made it your own. I tend to cook with my cast iron (love it) and it does well at browning tempeh and tofu, without it breaking it down. Sounds like it came out even tastier though.

  • Megan says:

    Just made these! They are so good! I haven’t worked with Tempeh much but this recipe showed me its ways. :) I will be buying Tempeh more often. I love sauce, so I just stirred the sauce in the the veggies and tempeh and let it cook a bit longer. Very good! Thanks for posting this :)

    • Joann says:

      I am so happy you like the recipe. Tempeh is my favorite protein as a vegetarian, so I’m glad more and more people are becoming familiar with it. My husband doesn’t like most meat substitutes, but he enjoys the taste and texture of tempeh.

  • Dennis Paulsen says:

    Looks delicious, and easy to veganize by skipping the sour cream. Have to try these!!

  • Julia says:

    I’m going to make these with vegan cheese and vegan sour cream! They look fantastic. Thank you!

  • Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. It was absolutely delicious! My non-vegan boyfriend LOVED it too, he even had 2 of them for dinner tonight!

    • Joann says:

      That is great! My husband really liked the Tempeh Joe’s as well and he loves his meat. I’m glad you two can enjoy the same meal together.

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